Tech Corner: Drivetrain Removal Do’s and Don’t’s for Beginners, Part II

“Whether you drive a 500-hp sports car or a 96-hp economy hatchback, all that potency under your car’s or truck’s hood is useless if the engine’s torque doesn’t get to the drivewheels through a complex maze of gears,” said Popular Mechanics about the almighty drivetrain.

Tech Corner - Though welding skills range from basic to advanced, we are going to label this mini-series as Advanced because our hope is to build your knowledge to a point that, with some practice, you can feel confident tackling more detailed projects.Awhile back we gave you a quick overview of the components that make up the drivetrain. We briefly explored what they do and some common symptoms they show when parts are experiencing problems. You can find that here. Now we’re giving some valuable quick tips to keep in mind for the next time you’re knee deep in elbow grease.

Plan, Plan, Plan

When going into a job like pulling out drivetrain components, the first thing to do is prepare. The tasks involved will require a good amount of physical effort and mental awareness. That means if you don’t have the proper tools or safety gear, or your head is somewhere in the clouds today—schedule the project for another time. There’s a lot of room for error. And when you’re dealing with extremely heavy equipment, that error can hurt. A lot.

Two Heads Are Better Than One

Engine removal is a big job. It involves pulling out the very heart of the beast. A heart made of a few hundred pounds of metal that is connected to most of the major operating systems inside the vehicle. Just considering where the thing will be stored is a big enough task. (You’ll need to plan for that too, by the way.) And that’s not even counting all the little wires and hoses that need to be kept track of throughout the rebuilding process. Keep that workspace clean so you don’t lose track of parts or worse, hurt yourself climbing over clutter. Consider making a list or taking pictures with your smartphone throughout the various stages that way you can easily reference how things looked when the project started.

Similarly, don’t try to take on a drivetrain removal alone. Sure, we’ve all seen our heroes standing over their machine as they lower a massive power plant in the engine bay with one hand, while holding a cold beer in the other. It looks cool but, honestly, going it alone is pretty reckless and is a good way to wind up in a tight spot. Before getting involved, it’s a good idea to call up a buddy and see if they can lend a hand. Not just for safety reasons, but also because a second set of eyes is incredibly useful. After all, even Maverick had Goose.

Dot Your I’s and Cross Your T’s

After you’ve set up your workspace, hijacked your friend’s afternoon, and agreed on a game-plan, go on and double check that all connections are detached before lifting that engine out of place. This may seem obvious. But skipping this step can be incredibly dangerous, as it’s a great way to damage parts of the car. Additionally, if you try to disengage those connections while the engine is suspended, a lot of tension can be released and some serious injury to the human body can occur. So, go ahead and make sure that all lines, wires, hoses, and anything else that may link the engine to the main portion of the vehicle is properly disconnected before starting.

This concept shouldn’t be limited to just the engine either. Don’t underestimate smaller drivetrain components. The engine might be rather honkin’ when compared to the size of the differentials and transmissions commonly found in passenger vehicles. But make no mistake, they can be just as lethal. It’s important to proceed with caution and be really thorough about where parts, pulleys, and human limbs are located at all times. This is especially true when considering that smaller components are typically dropped from beneath the vehicle, rather than hoisted like the engine. That means they’ll be directly above your arms, legs, and even head. And while they may be lighter than an engine, if things go wrong it can get pretty ugly, pretty fast. So be sure to keep their size in mind and treat them respectfully.

Eyes on the Ball

We could easily list all the tools you’d need on hand when pulling a drivetrain. But we’re gonna go ahead and assume you’ve already adequately prepared for this job. So really, the best tool you can keep in your arsenal is a fresh set of eyes. Your eyes are what directly link you to the task at hand and allow you to identify obstacles, threats, and all those pesky little connections we mentioned earlier.

So keep in mind, eye protection is a must—as is proper lighting. If you don’t have a well-lit garage and have to work in a driveway or yard, try avoiding night projects. Sure, good lighting can be bought but it’s still limited in comparison to the power of the sun. And with a job this big, you’ll want the sun.

You’ve Got This

Recap: the biggest ‘Do’ on this list is the very first one mentioned…be mindful. Let’s face it, this can be stretched into a novel when talking about all the ins and outs of a project this size. But at the end of the day, the rights parts, cognitive thought, and a little patience are all a gearhead really needs.

Well that, and safety equipment. But we feel that the same switch that flips in your head when automatically throwing on a pair of gloves and safety glasses, is the same switch that should stay on the entire process. It’s the key to staying out of harm’s way. And it’s what will keep us loving this industry for many years (and projects) to come.

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